subject: lactase

Milk and Potatoes Made the World Go Round

Milk and Potatoes Made the World Go Round

Population growth, urbanization and, as a consequence, economic and political development owe much to humankind’s ability to make use of two humble foodstuffs: milk and potatoes. That is the theory put forward by development economist C. Justin Cook, of the University of California, Merced. Read More...

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

The common understanding of the inability to properly digest lactose is that it’s all about genetics: either a particular gene in cells lining your upper intestine—which enables everyone to digest lactose as an infant—becomes inactive as you grow up, or it doesn’t. But the truth is less cut and dry. In fact, there is some recent and gathering evidence to suggest that those who suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance could be better off by frequently consuming small quantities of the sugar that bothers them. Read More...

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Back in the 50s and 60s, work on lactose intolerance was often published under cringeworthy and blunt racial titles. A Nature article from 1969 sums it up with ‘Can Asians Digest Milk?’ It was also probably a subliminal non-accident that ‘lactose intolerance’—which is the typical condition for adult humans—became common parlance for a trait for which those with northern European ancestry are the real mutants. Many decades on, the genetic basis of the ability to digest lactose has been largely pinned down. As it turns out, there are different genetic reasons for the mutants’ lactose tolerance in the various populations that drink milk without intestinal incident, and the gene that confers mutant power in Europeans is only part of the story. That research history is discussed below, along with recent work that has extended the field’s reach beyond genetics. Investigations of the transcontinental basis of lactose tolerance are now providing insights into mankind’s cultural, as well as biological evolution. Read More...

Milk and Mortality

Milk and Mortality

A research article published in the British Medical Journal on dairy intake and mortality is causing a lot of fuss [1]. So far, the journal has published 45 rapid responses to this article compared with an average of 3 responses to other articles in the same issue. What’s all the fuss about? Read More...

Dairy for the Lactose Intolerant

Dairy for the Lactose Intolerant

Ever watched a lactose intolerant friend shovel yogurt into their mouth, and wondered, in anticipated horror, at what the outcome may be? Strange as it may seem, fully lactose intolerant people tend have little problem digesting yogurt, even though its lactose content is approximately equal to milk's. There is no need to check for the nearest toilet. The explanation for this apparent puzzle lies with the bacteria in yogurt. Read More...